ROME—Peter Madsen, a 47-year-old Danish rocket scientist turned submarine builder, admitted cutting up the body of Kim Wall, a 30-year-old Swedish journalist. In fact, he said he dismembered the reporter, who was on his homemade submarine last August to interview him, “to save her family.”
He originally said he left the journalist at the docks when the interview was over and had no idea what happened to her once her boyfriend reported her missing. He changed his story when her headless torso washed up on a beach. Then he said she had accidentally died when the submarine hatch fell and crushed her cranium. But he changed that story, too, after her decapitated head was discovered with no signs of injury beyond the saw wound from the beheading. After that, he said what had really happened was that she died of toxic fumes in his submarine when he was outside, and that he “panicked” and cut her up to get rid of her.
Madsen, who has been standing trial in Copenhagen for Wall’s murder since March, said he had hoped that by puncturing her torso dozens of times with a screwdriver and weighing down her limbs with iron after he sawed them off, that her body would stay “buried at sea.” He said the fact that many of the puncture wounds were in and around her genitalia was “coincidental, not sexual”—despite the fact that a witness testified that he had fantasized about sexually motivated murder.
On Wednesday, Danish Judge Anette Burkø told Madsen that his story didn’t hold water, and sentenced him to life in prison for Wall’s murder, dismemberment, and sexual assault without intercourse.
She said that she and two lay judges didn’t find any of his versions of events believable. “The court has been unanimous in coming to this result,” Burkø said, according to reporters in Copenhagen. “This is a cynical and pre-planned sexual assault of a particularly brutal nature on a random woman who, in connection with her journalistic work, accepted an invitation for a sailing trip on the accused’s submarine.”
Throughout the trial, which took place over 11 hearings, prosecutor Jakob Buch-Jepsen showed countless videos found on Madsen’s computer. Some showed beheadings. Others were snuff films, in which rape victims were killed. The court was also told that he searched terms like “agony” and “decapitation” in the days before Wall was murdered and that he brought a wood saw from his workshop onto the submarine specifically for the dismemberment. The prosecutor also said Madsen had tried to get three other women to go out alone on his submarine before Wall, who had been trying to interview him for some time, agreed to go.
Wall, an award-winning journalist who had written for The New York Times and Harper’s, had reported from a number of high-risk areas, including North Korea and the torture cells of Ugandan tyrant Idi Amin. She and her boyfriend were planning to move to Beijing together. Wall had skipped her own going-away party to go out on the submarine with Madsen last August.
When asked if he had final thoughts before deliberations, Madsen maintained his innocence. “No,” he said. “Except that I am really, really sorry about happened.” His lawyer says he will appeal the guilty verdict.